Opposition legislators tried to disrupt the question hour in Kerala Assembly on Wednesday over the alleged move of the Government to privatise drinking water supply in the State through the CIAL-model Kerala Drinking Water Supply Company Ltd.
The House witnessed noisy scenes after the Minister for Water Resources, P. J. Joseph started replying to a question on the privatisation of the drinking water. The Minister informed the members that the intention of floating the company was to make available drinking water as the private companies were fleecing the public by charging exorbitant rates and quality was suspicious.
Mr. Joseph said the Government had revised the order issued on December 31, 2012 and the new order on April 15 clearly states that the company can draw water only from abandoned quarries, ponds, brackish water sources. Under no circumstances, the company will be allowed to draw water from sources of Kerala Water Authority (KWA).
The nine-member director board to be headed by the Water Resources Minister will have seven nominees of the Government and two members to represent the shareholders. Safety measures had been taken to protect the interests of KWA.
Mr. Joseph said the company will cater to the demand of public, housing colonies, commercial establishments and industries by supplying drinking water through tankers and produce packaged drinking water.
The Opposition legislators demanded an assurance from the Minister that drinking water will not be privatised.
The Speaker, G. Karthikeyan said he cannot direct the Minister to give a specific answer as sought by the Opposition and that the Chair has to go ahead with the business. Following this, the Opposition raised slogans and demanded that the order to float the company should be withdrawn. The Opposition legislators also demanded the resignation of Mr. Joseph.
Noisy scenes were witnessed as the legislators from the ruling front were also on their feet. The Opposition said they will not allow privatisation of drinking water and that water is the birthright of the citizens.
The attempts of the Speaker to calm the Opposition failed as they continued with slogan shouting. Amidst this, the Speaker proceeded with the next question and called the Minister for Health, V. S. Sivakumar to reply to it. The Opposition legislators refrained from asking questions and continued with slogan shouting till the end of the question hour.